The Pentagon's Don't Ask, Don't Tell study released yesterday found that a clear majority of military personnel don't have a problem with ending the policy banning gays from serving openly in the military. So how did the Washington Post kick off its article about the troops' views? By emphasizing the fears of a small minority of military personnel:
Some expressed fears about contracting AIDS or getting leered at in the showers. Others worried that it would get in the way of critical bonding at barbecues and bar outings. Still others said it would be an affront to their religious beliefs and harm the military's credibility.
That's the Washington Post's lede for an article about a study finding that 70 percent of the military thinks ending DADT won't pose a problem: The fears of "some" about AIDS. Instead of emphasizing views that are consistent with the study's findings, the Post chose a more inflammatory, and less accurate, route, playing up ugly stereotypes about gays. The first quote or paraphrase of a survey respondent who favors repealing DADT didn't appear until halfway through the article, after the Post had told readers that (again, a small minority) of respondents fear AIDS, leering gays, affronts to their religious beliefs, damage to military credibility, diminished barbecue bonding -- and quoted three repeal opponents.
The Post's promotion of the article further illustrates its focus on the views of the small minority of service-members:
And when the Post did finally get around to quoting the majority who favor repeal, it omitted some of the most compelling comments. Among the responses that didn't make it into the Post report:
"I love America for its tolerance. I am willing to be a KIA [Killed In Action] because I think America values equality and civil liberties. It would be great if the institution I served in mirrored exactly these ideals."
"This is an equality issue, and who doesn't deserve equal rights? We've done it before with African Americans, and we have done it before with females. We can do it again. As brothers and sisters in arms, we stand and fight not only for our country, but for one another."
When a majority of members of a conservative institution in a nation with a history of discriminating against gays don't want to discriminate against gays anymore, that's the news -- not the fact that a minority still cling to prejudice. The Post article simply is not representative of the findings of the study in question. Worse, it privileges inflammatory rhetoric and anti-gay stereotypes.